Today I am attending a chicken hearing at Buffalo City Hall.
This is not the first time I’ve attended a legislative hearing of our Common
Council, but it’s the first time I’ve gone to advocate for chickens. Usually I
am there to stop demolitions of historic properties or—a couple times—to speak
about quality of life issues such as bar patios open too late and so on.
I have high hopes for this. It should provide some
entertainment and the word is—as I’ve reported before—that an ordinance
allowing chickens is likely to pass here. But on the other hand, it is a bit
frustrating that this issue, like so many that affect urban gardeners and
farmers, has to be such a heavy lift for local politicians. If I were to ask
any of these legislators what LEED standards were, I’m pretty sure they’d be
able to say Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (this phrase bothers
me, by the way—“energy design?” Huh?). They get buildings and clean energy. But
they don’t get sustainability when it comes to uses that don’t have to do with
bricks, mortar, and generating power.
And it goes well beyond Buffalo. Here is a woman in
Springfield, MA who is trying to sell her vegetables and is running into
trouble (though she is prevailing), while fierce battles between developers and urban farms occur in
cities throughout the U.S. regularly, including a famous example in Los Angeles
that is the subject of the film
The Garden (reviewed by Susan).
Urban gardeners are running up against laws and governments
nearly daily, and while some of it is easy to understand—you need regulations
and order in any community—a lot of the trouble comes from city planning
mindsets that seem wedded to the disastrous urban renewal paradigms of decades
ago. The plan for success still seems to be: lure a big company, build lots of
apartment buildings and parking ramps and make sure there’s a convention center
and a stadium nearby. I exaggerate but not by much. For too many politicians
and planners, cities still mean concrete and construction cranes, not healthy
neighborhoods where people try to live sustainable lives. The path to economic survival in cities has changed and it's got more to do with livability than skyscrapers.